By Eric Boulet
As the first franchisee for Pannizza, I’ve had the chance to follow through on my dream of owning and running a restaurant, featuring an entirely new concept developed right here at home in Montreal, accompanied by the leadership and support of experienced franchisors behind me.
An open door
I was born in 1972 and raised in the east side, Montreal North, where I still live today. I have two sisters and we grew up in an open-house kind of environment. All of the neighbourhood kids would end up on our porch, just hanging around, waiting for my mom to take out the lasagna! We always had people over and we were very passionate about food.
Our parents made sure all three of us kids kept very busy with sports, to keep us out of trouble. As a teenager, I spent most of my time riding my BMX bike and playing street hockey. (Well, as far as street hockey goes, we probably spent more time calling ‘time out’ and moving the nets to let cars pass by than we did actually playing the game!)
Our parents also worked hard and sacrificed a lot to put us through private school. Everything they did was for our benefit.
In 1992, I began to study business management at the John Molson School of Business (JMSB) at Montreal’s Concordia University. I realized I had a stronger passion for computers, so I eventually shifted away from business to study network management systems. That kick-started my career in information technology (IT), which I continue to enjoy today.
I’ve always taken education very seriously. In 2008, I applied once again to JMSB and I’m still a student there today, slowly completing that undergraduate degree in business management.
From IT to restaurants
My IT career has focused on public safety systems since 2005, when I began installing 911 emergency response systems all across North America, including the Caribbean. My employment involved 80 per cent travel time. I got to dine at the most reputable places in each city and meet a wide variety of interesting people, but it was tough when I was starting a family. When my daughter turned three, it was apparent her daddy needed to be home. Fortunately, not long after that, there was an opening for a technician at the Montreal 911 centre. Switching to that job was the best decision I ever made! I’m still working there today.
As much as I loved my job and public safety sector, however, I was always on the hunt for a business venture. Given I love food and meeting interesting people, a friend and I started looking at the restaurant business.
I was initially attracted to the notion of a breakfast-focused restaurant, which I could open in the morning and close in the early afternoon, but then I got a call about a new concept. My friend and I decided to see what the buzz was about.